Last fall I showed a picture I had snapped of somebody driving down the road with their bare foot out the window.
Concerns have been expressed about how safe that was, and whether it was illegal.
What happens with blog writing is the every now and again somebody will comment on an entry from long ago. As the blog owner, I see those comments, but many other folks probably don’t. So I’m going to make a full entry here about the issue.
Here’s the picture in question:
Long-time friend and fellow barefooter Myranya raised the concern. In particular, an article caught her attention: Driver caught doing 70mph in the fast lane – with his leg out the window. The story is about a guy in Britain who had a cramp in his foot, took off his shoe, and then stuck his socked foot out the window.
Some cops saw him, hit their lights, and he braked:
The officers saw part of his right leg and foot sticking out of the driver’s window. As he went along the brake lights of his vehicle came on. He clearly touched the controls with his left foot because his right foot was still through the driver’s window.
The officers saw the car fishtail about in the lane and the driver wasn’t in full control.’
He was convicted of dangerous driving and banned from driving for two years.
So, could that have happened to the Ohio driver in the picture above?
I don’t think so. There are a few differences that I think are critical.
The first one is that the news story took place in Britain, where people drive on the wrong side of the road. Even though the driver is on the right, the right foot is still normally used for the accelerator and for braking. So, he had his control foot out the window. That’s bad. In the U.S., if you put your foot out the window it will be the left foot, the non-driving foot.
By the way, it is possible to brake left-footed, but you have to have practice doing so. This guy obviously didn’t have that practice.
Another issue is how you still sit in the vehicle. While I have not driven with my foot out the window, I have driven with it raised to about the arm-rest level. To do so does require scrunching down a bit (in the story it says, “He appeared to be sat very low in his seat, as though he was reclining backwards”). However, I’m pretty tall, so I can easily do that—all I need to do then is adjust my mirrors. If you aren’t short, though, I think you’d be in trouble with your driving. Obviously, the guy in the picture above can see just fine.
Is there some additional danger from driving like that? Possibly, a bit. For him, it looks like his foot could be blocking his view of the side mirror (but I’m not sure). Also, if he did get in an accident like that and his air bag deployed, his torso probably would not be properly positioned so he would sustain additional injuries.
And the big question: Is driving like this illegal? As far as I can tell (without doing a state-by-state work-up), no. (That’s not to say that you probably wouldn’t attract a cop’s attention.)
Here in Ohio two candidate statutes are:
§ 4511.20. Willful or wanton operation on street or highway.
(A) No person shall operate a vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street or highway in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.
§ 4511.202. Operating vehicle without reasonable control.
(A) No person shall operate a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street, highway, or property open to the public for vehicular traffic without being in reasonable control of the vehicle, trolley, or streetcar.
They are both minor misdemeanors (though, on the former, it escalates for repeat offenders). From what I can tell, the “wanton” one is mainly used for drag-racing.
[For the heck of it, I also checked New Jersey, and found something similar, 39:4-96 and 39:4-97.]
The thing is, the burden is on the state to prove the unreasonableness. So, if you are tall and you are not obstructing your vision, you could probably argue your way out of it. The shorter you are, the more problem you might have.
Would I do this with my foot fully out the window? No.
Is it fun to occasionally see bare feet sticking out of car windows on the highway? Yes.